The doorbell rang and I went to open it. There stood a delivery man with my new mattress. I helped my father remove my old one and under the mattress saw a pale plank of wood caked with dust in the comers, the stray sock that never made it to the closet,and a dusty Yu-Gi-Oh playing card. It’s been a couple years since I’ve seen a Yu-Gi-Oh card inside my house. The last time I had seen one was after they’ve been swept away during the night of Hurricane Sandy. Years of collecting, hundreds of dollars spent and most of my childhood playing with them: all swept away by the water. During the time of the storm I didn’t think much of my collection;all I knew at the moment was blocking off the water from reaching the first floor,and that everything in the basement was washed away.
Looking at the card brought back fond memories of my childhood where I spent hours playing with my brother ,when I was too illiterate to even read the words on the cards. Snapping at me back into present day, my father told me to throw away the card saying that it was a waste of time and money. I knew it wasn’t because I had learned a lot from this game like doing math, understanding how to use the cards in the game and most importantly how to read.
When I was a child around the age of six I always got up early on Saturday mornings to catch the cartoon marathon that usually ran from 8am-12pm. One of my favorite shows that I came across was the show Yu-Gi-Oh while I was watching some advertisements after Sonic was over. I saw this guy with a ridiculous hairstyle that had gold bangs, and black hair spiked up with purple tips. It seemed interesting and when I watched the first couple of episodes I was hooked. I got my first pack of Yu-Gi-Oh cards as a gift from my aunt. The cards were wrapped in shiny silver foil and inside the pack were 5 cards, each with its own unique art.I struggled to read most of those cards but I still kept them because the artwork on the cards was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. The first card in that pack was a medieval knight wearing green armor and a green Viking helmet with elven ears. Its name was Celtic Guardian and I would slur my words together and get kelp-ick good-men.
After a couple weeks of collecting Yu-Gi-Oh cards I only looked at the artwork, never paying too much attention to the words that came with the card until I started playing with my brother. We shared collections and played against each other, sometimes he would get cards that I owned. When he played the card I could hear the correct pronunciation of the name of the card and mimic the proper way to say it like a parrot. Solemn Judgment was the first foil card I had, it had a shiny picture unlike anything I’d ever seen before and I always struggling with the word solemn. My father saw me one day and that evil man had a grin on his face, I could see the gears turning in his brain coming up with another method to torture me. My father told me to pick up a dictionary and look up all the words I didn’t know from my collection. The dictionary was helpful in correctly saying how the word would be pronounced and I also learned he definition of some words that I didn’t know.
My english started to develop with my growing vocabulary, I started to ace more spelling tests and with perfect scores I got to buy more Yu-Gi-Oh cards as a reward. Each new expansion the game came out with was like a new flashcard I could learn from except more fun and with an incredible picture in the background. By the second grade I was able to read a lot better;instead of only reading the title of the card I was able to read the chunk of intimidating text below the picture that I was unable to read when I first started the game. The text of the cards gave it life making it seem real. When I read the text of Celtic Guardian, the first card I struggled with, it read “An elf who learned to wield a sword, he baffles enemies with lightning-swift attacks”. I could imagine the elf fighting another elf or monsters, moving like a master swordsman that would be able to cut up bullets that were flying towards him. The picture on the card was no longer just a image,it was like a battle scene every time I saw it
As my English began to improve so did my understanding of how words could be understood in many different ways. During a Yu-Gi-Oh tournament that my friends and I held back in the fourth grade, we fought to become the best player just like in the show. The game went on for a while and I was left in the finals against my friend Will and another student from a different class whose name I don’t remember. The match was a close one, all three of us were low on points and once the points hit zero you lose. I had this card that had an effect to reduce the amount of points of one person to zero, because usually the game is generally played between two people. The card said deal damage to your opponent, and there was an argument on which player should lose first but I managed to twist the words into saying that both Will and the other student were my opponents. I took home the title of best Yu-Gi-Oh player that day.
Throwing away that card underneath my mattress was a difficult task to do that day. Although my father called it a waste of time and money on the game, I thought it was money well spent considering the amount that I learned from these “useless” playing cards. It was filled with memories of my childhood, the good times I had with my friends and my English learning experience.